Anneliese Dodds, Labour's top South East candidate for the European elections, Andrew Smith MP and Sally Copley, Labour candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, today slammed the UK Conservative / Lib Dem coalition government for putting 'ideology before the needs of the most deprived' by rejecting EU funding for food banks.
Currently an estimated 70,000 people in the South East are having to use food banks, a 60% rise on last year over the region as a whole, including a rising number in Oxford.
Despite this, the UK government has refused to take up its £22million share of a new £2.5billion fund created by the European Union to help with the running costs of food banks.
A leaked memo says the government has rejected the money because it believes that 'measures of this type are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes, and their regional and local authorities'. Yet the UK government appears to have no intention of providing any help itself to support the running of food banks, stating that these should instead be delivered by charities and volunteers. [Please find a picture attached featuring Anneliese and Andrew at a collection points for one of the volunteer-run food banks in Oxford].
Anneliese says: "It is very disappointing that our government is rejecting money available from the EU to help with the running costs of food banks, for what appears to be entirely ideological reasons. I salute the charities and volunteers who are working so hard in Oxford to make sure that families will have enough to eat this Christmas. It is only a shame that they won't be supported by EU funds like their counterparts in other European countries".
Andrew says: “I think the public, who are generous in their support of local food banks, will be astounded that the government isn’t taking up money from Europe which could help. I have down Parliamentary Questions to press the government on this.”
Sally says: "Across the South East alone foodbank use is up by 60% - it's not just critical that this Government accesses the European funds available for running foodbanks but more importantly that it urgently address the causes of this increase, and that means tackling low wages, insecure unemployment such as zero hour contracts as well as delays in benefit payments."